Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Workers protest factory shutdowns

Workers protest factory shutdowns

Workers protest at the Yu Da garment factory yesterday after their employer absconded without paying them.
Workers protest at the Yu Da garment factory yesterday after their employer absconded without paying them. Hong Menea

Workers protest factory shutdowns

Roughly 2,000 garment workers protested yesterday outside three factories in Por Sen Chey district after the owner abruptly shut down operations and fled – within a day of sending them to listen to a speech by Prime Minister Hun Sen about how the country does not need a labour court to settle disputes.

Workers at Yu Fa Garment Industry and its sister companies, Yu Da Garment Industry and SRE Garment Co Ltd, say they are now without their severance or pay for the month of January.

Employee Keang Sath, 32, said workers were given the afternoon off after being sent to listen to Hun Sen’s speech on Wednesday morning. In the interim, the factory was shuttered.

“When I came to work this morning, the factory was locked and they wouldn’t let us go inside to work,” Sath said. “They told us the owner ran away and that there is no work for us.”

According to Sath, the factory recently changed owners and many employees had been asked to work half-time last month.

In his speech Wednesday, Hun Sen told Sath and other workers that there was no need for a specialised labour court in Cambodia and that they should be able to find “win-win” solutions with their employers on their own or through the existing Arbitration Council.

Labour rights advocates, while divided on the need for a labour court, said that the Yu Fa case exemplifies why more regulations are needed to protect workers.

Solidarity Center’s William Conklin said that although the government often steps in when a factory closes to sell its remaining assets and distribute the proceeds, the amount is often less than what workers are legally owed.

“Sometimes, [the severance] can be a very large amount,” Conklin said. “It’s not surprising the owners most likely don’t have it or don’t want to pay it.”

Conklin suggested that factories be required to put down a deposit that can be used to pay severance for workers in case the owner absconds.

Moeun Tola of Central said while he believes a labour court is needed, he prefers enhancing the powers of the Arbitration Council, which operates independently.

For now, “if the owner ran away, we should look at their parent company and the brands who sourced from the factory,” Tola said.

A woman who answered the company phone yesterday declined to speak about the situation because she was “small staff”. However, workers said the company supplies US brands Walmart and JCPenney.

Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour said in a message yesterday that the ministry had the “means, laws and regulations” to handle the case.

“It is not the first case,” Sour said. “We successfully solved the case in the past. We will keep working and fighting for the benefit of workers.”

Garment worker Hoeun Malay, 24, who is eight months pregnant, said a solution is needed quickly.

“I was so sad when I heard,” said Malay. “I don’t have money to deliver my baby. If I don’t get my salary pay, I don’t know what I will do.”

This version corrects the name of the factory to Yu Fa.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro